Clip Show (Patch Style)
Looking back at the first year as a freelance contributor for "The Patch".
About a year ago, I hit that submit button for the very first time, and sent "The Many Hats of...Hey! A Nickel!" to press. I had no idea what to expect next. Even now, I feel kind of like a mama eagle nudging a chick out of the nest when I press "submit." I never know if it's gonna take off and fly, or if I'm going to hear that virtual "splat!" at the bottom of the Internet canyon.
Today marks a year of Loganville-Grayson Patch, so it is natural to take the day to reflect on the past year. I thought we could take a look back in the style of a sitcom clip show--only Patchier. It's been a trial by fire, but I wouldn't trade a minute of it. Well, maybe one moment...The moment I submitted a clunker called Polar Bears and Three Ring Binders. What...you don't remember that one? Good. It's a totally forgettable ramble about politics. Spare yourself; don't click the link. Even I can't remember what it's about, and I wrote the dang thing! Awful.
But not everything tanked. Folks were reading my stuff, in and outside of my home patch. I remember how cool it was when Dacula Patch picked up "How To Be a Better Bystander." Then Norcross ran "Like it's Shark Week." Someplace way out in Missouri even picked up "Breaking Stuff for Jesus." I think the trick is to relate to folks, not just prattle on about me. "The Ninja" was an early column about my family that was well received by a lot of moms. (My son hated it!). Later "me" centered works like, "Just A little cancer" and "Dear Stupid" were not well read. My first delve into local politics was a two-parter about Sunday Sales called "Priorities and Perspectives." Then there was the angry "Alcohol: Freedom and Responsibility." My point was simple: "With great freedom comes great responsibility." People forget that I myself have a beer from time to time and attacked me over it. Or maybe folks just heard what they wanted to hear on that one. Either way, I got labeled a prude over it. Worse, my point got lost in the melee. My next column was about that.
At the encouragement of my editor, Sharon Swanepoel, I have also done some stories. Reporting stories is different, in that they are writing in third person, a new and surprisingly difficult thing for me to do. My early efforts would start out as a story, then would turn into a column halfway through. I made that rookie error at least twice, butchering what might have otherwise been a good story - or a good column - just not at the same time. I eventually got the hang of it, and I enjoy writing a good story now. Still, I must admit that the fireman in me still finds it odd to stand outside the scene tape when I do a story like last week's "This is Only a Drill." Recently, I've dabbled into national politics. I've written columns discussing Martin Luther King Jr, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. This is an arena I'm comfortable with, so you can expect more of these in the year to come.
The one I am most proud of is a story I stumbled upon very early on, The story of Mayra Ortiz. Sharon did most of the professional-grade reporting, but since I found the story and knew her family, I did one of those hybrid story/columns I hadn't learned to not write yet. One month into existence, the Loganville-Grayson Patch broke a story that was soon picked up by other local, regional and national news agencies. Sharon's story and my half-column thing made it on the AOL homepage. But that's not the thing that's so cool about that story. The cool part is that those stories made a difference. Media scrutiny made the officials take a second look at her situation and do the right thing.
Of course, the most important people to thank are you, the readers. Without you, none of this would be possible. Keep reading, keep commenting, please let us know what you like and don't like. Here's looking forward to another great year. Please accept my heartfelt "THANK YOU!"